...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ben Nevis 21 year old 1996 Whisky Doris, cask 2028

Whisky Doris is batting 1.000 for me. I mean I've had only four of their bottlings but each was a gem. That's why I figuratively jumped for joy when I saw a retailer slinging a single sherry cask Ben Nevis from the W.D. And it wasn't one of their unfortunate nudie labels, but rather the classic monochrome style. But between the time I clicked on Add to Cart and the fraction-of-a-second that it should have hit my cart ...... it sold out. That felt like some Ticketmaster bullshit right there.

Anyway, I got in on a bottle split less than a year later. Yippee!

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Whisky Doris
Age: 21 years old (November 1996 to April 2018)
Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask #: 2028
Outturn: 299 bottles (possibly a cask split)
Alcohol by Volume: 52.2%
(from a bottle split)

The nose balances walnuts, cherry juice, wasabi, old books, dunnage and dirty hay with hints of peat smoke, plum wine and milk chocolate remarkably. The palate shows nuts and salt in the middle, stone fruits and mossy smoke around the edges. Then dark chocolate, bitter herbs, Thai chiles and toasted almonds ease in with time. It finishes with walnuts, almonds, moss, salt and a hint of the nose's cherry juice.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes funkier, peatier, farmier, but also picks up some pecans, apricots and lychee. The palate is now super nutty: think almonds, cashews and pecans. There's also some ginger, apple skins, lemon juice, salt and pepper oil. The finish matches the palate, but a with little more farm.

The nose is perfect. I don't know how this is done, and sometimes it seems like this capability escapes most bottlers. One can assume proper cask management has something to do with it. Add in some dumb luck, great storage and someone with a good nose. The palate is very good too, but that nose though. This is one of the rare samples I missed once it was gone. Whisky Doris is 5 for 5.

Availability - Possibly available on the European continent
Pricing - it was around €175
Rating - 90

Monday, September 28, 2020

Ben Nevis 20 year old 1997 Exclusive Malts, cask 38

The second half of this series starts with one of my own bottles. The tasting sample was pulled from below the bottle's halfway point, so yes I already know how this story's going to end. With smiles, damn it! Whoops, I mean SPOILER ALERT.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Creative Whisky Company
Range: The Exclusive Malts
Age: 20 years old (24 Jan 1997 to 2017)
Maturation: refill sherry hogshead
Cask #: 38
Outturn: 242 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.9%
(from my bottle)

BIG sherry on the nose. Can't imagine what this hoggie's first fill whisky was like. There are smoked almonds, Heath Bars, walnuts, brine, orange oil and hints of anise and mint. There's also a musty old cask note that peeks out from time to time. The palate is salty and earthy with plenty of dark chocolate, but that's balanced with lemons, golden raisins, guava juice and spicy cigars. It finishes with tart limes, peach skins, earth and baking spices.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Not much change (which is good!) on the nose. It's slightly fruitier and maltier with mellower sherry. The palate has become earthier with forest floor notes. Dunnage floor, too? A bright orange note floats above. It finishes with soil, smoke and oranges.

After a string of decent but unexciting bottles of my own, it was such a pleasure to finally open an excellent whisky. As mentioned in the notes, this is one of those refill casks that reads like a vibrant first fill, yet there are no plain pruney notes nor black raisins. The dark and light characteristics are precisely balanced on the palate, while the nose shines at every moment. In addition to all those words, I'd just like to add that this whisky is very tasty. The end. 😊

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - around $125 back in 2017
Rating - 90

Friday, September 25, 2020

Ben Nevis 20 year old 1996 Single Cask Nation, cask 2011

Easy summary of the first seven Ben Nevee: No home runs, maybe a pair of doubles and two singles. Only one flop from the five bourbon casks, but none of the four matched the complexity and loveliness of the 13 year old hoggie that sold me on Ben Nevis eight years ago.

It's time to switch to the 20+ year old sherry cask Ben Nevises (including some 1996s), and I'm really hoping to find some winners among them. I've given Single Cask Nation a bit of grief during this series so I'm hoping this refill puncheon gets a little punchy in my glass. Yeah, I'm proud of that one.

Don't look too hard for the man in the reflection
because these tastings are pants-optional.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 20 years old (Nov 1996 to Jan 2017)
Maturation: refill Oloroso puncheon
Cask #: 2011
Outturn: 321 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.6%
(from a bottle split)

Party nose! Milk chocolate, caramel sauce, milky coffee, Old Spice and orange slice candy. There's also some mild peat and a hint of mango juice. It all gets mustier and fruitier with time. The palate arrives from a different angle. Bitter chocolate, soil, broken stones and dried leaves. Hints of honey and oranges in the background. The whisky gets heavier, smokier and saltier with time in the glass. The finish is very earthy and leafy with a spicy zing.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose leans more towards cigars and toasted oak spices, then almond extract, lemon zest and a pinch of moss. The palate is a blast of dark chocolate, heavy smoke and sweet citrus. It finishes smoky and earthy with a hint of sweetness.

This one beat the five preceding bourbon cask Ben Nevii fair and square. The fruity bits keep it from becoming monolithic, but it's still a dark, hefty thing and LOADED with character. It smells great and tastes great and I wish I had more right now. Should I have just done 16 sherry cask bottlings? Or I am getting too hyped about the second half of this series?

Availability - Sold out (USA)
Pricing - maybe $200ish?
Rating - 89

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Ben Nevis 23 year old 1996 Single Cask Nation, cask 1839

After the Valinch & Mallet experience I decided to move some of the Ben Nevises around so that I could finish up all the bourbon cask BNs right here. All nine Nevises after this will be from sherry casks, which is what all four of you who've been following this series have been waiting for anyway.

This 23 year old hoggie from the Single Cask Nation gents was distilled in 1996, an allegedly fabulous vintage for this distillery. ...... And now I've just deleted my two-paragraph hot take on whisky "vintages". I'm unsold on the magical vintage theory (because science), but I've also written about it a half dozen times already. Instead, I will write about something totally unique to Diving for Pearls: Ben Nevis.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 23 years old (Nov 1996 to Nov 2019)
Maturation: second-fill bourbon hogshead
Cask #: 1839
Outturn: 209 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50.4%
(from a bottle split)

The nose is mossy with a few drops of tropical fruit punch, followed by small notes of buttery American chardonnay and old newspapers. It gets butterier, and picks up notes of dried thyme and orange with time. A subsequent pour shows more flowers and dried apricots. The palate has a salty mineral core with flowers and nectarines around the outside. A strong tanginess and pepper oil joins the salt. Tiny notes of oranges and malt in the background. The subsequent pour is maltier with a good bitterness. Its warm finish is simply salt and citrus.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes much fruitier, candied like a Jolly Rancher bag, with notes of moss, roses and tomato leaf in the background. Nectarines, oranges, minerals and barley make up the palate, with a balance of sweetness and pepper at its center. It finishes sweeter now, though it's still tangy and salty. Maybe a bit of lychee in there?

Though the cask lost at least 41% of its original contents over 23 years, it thankfully didn't seek revenge on the whisky and its drinkers. By that I mean, the whisky isn't oaky. It does feel lean and simple when neat, but then loosens up with just a little bit of water. I wasn't crazy about this Ben Nevis during its first pour as it offered nothing one can't get from many younger, cheaper whiskies from other distilleries. But the second pour was better, bolder and brighter. Though for this price??? Next.

Availability - Several retailers in the US of A
Pricing - $220-$260
Rating - 85

Monday, September 21, 2020

Ben Nevis 19 year old 1999 Valinch & Mallet, cask 18-1901

Here's today's whisky:

Here's last Friday's whisky:

Side by side:

Look at today's whisky, on the left, swallowing light. I went in on the bottle split because I thought it was a sherry cask. It's not. It's a bourbon hogshead.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Valinch & Mallet
Range: Hidden Casks Collection
Age: 19 years (1999-2018)
Maturation: bourbon hogshead
Cask number18-1901
Outturn: 278 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
(from a bottle split)

It noses of lumber, bark, caramel, pine needles, cocoa, black peppercorns, caramel, brine, mint and caramel. The punishingly sweet palate rings of sweet vermouth and tawny port. Orange oil, eucalyptus and acres of bitter oak. It finishes with cloying sugar syrup and bitter oak.

Um, water?

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is of a dustier bourbon now. Lots of caramel, butterscotch, barrel char and vanilla custard. There's more vanilla and barrel char on the palate, with some bubblegum, sweet vermouth and intensely drying tannins. It finishes with a sugary swirl of vanilla and cherry juice.

As a Ben Nevis this is turrible. Had someone done this to a Springbank or Clynelish or Lagavulin there would be pitchforks and tears and gnashing of teeth throughout whiskydom. The whisky makes one wonder if "Hidden Casks" refers to the act of finding the thing in the back of the warehouse way way way too late.

BUT. As a bourbon it is of interest. It's essentially a combination of two genres of American whiskey. Part One: those wine cask finished thingies from Angel's Envy and Joseph Magnus. Part Two: Crafty-Craft Craft Craft Whiskey. And, you know what, it makes a decent old fashioned cocktail. I mean that was the whole purpose of this release, right?

Availability - A few bottles may still be available here and there in the USA and Europe
Pricing - $150-$200
Rating - 73 (but only if you pretend you're drinking bourbon)

Friday, September 18, 2020

Ben Nevis 18 year old 2001 Old Particular for K&L Wine Merchants

25% done with the series and what have I learned so far? That Ben Nevis can be weird and it can be overrun by aggressive sherry casks? Nah, I think many of us knew that already. I appreciate that each of the first four whiskies was its own creature, demonstrating that Ben Nevis has the potential to be a chameleon malt. But I'm not sure how I actually feel about that, especially if the quality rarely matches the quirk. Whisky number 5 on this trip is a refill hoggie, so perhaps it'll lean a little closer to Monday's Blackadder.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Douglas Laing
Range: Old Particular
Age: 18 years (2001-2019)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Cask numberDL13264
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 52.8%
(from a bottle split)

The nose begins naked and raw, with barley and heat and sand. Then, gradually, it opens up. Milk Duds, McIntosh apples, plums, flowers, the first dose of BN industrial funk and some quirky savory spices. Malt, hard toffee and plums in the palate, followed by IPA-ish grapefruits (or grapefruit-ish IPAs), mint leaves, fresh ginger and a hint of that funk. A real citrus bomb in the finish, with grapefruits, oranges, lemons, ginger and mint leaf.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Ah, the nose has become much more medicinal while also adding in lemon peel and more maltiness. The palate also gains a medicinal note and citrus zests. Fewer sweets, more minerals. It finishes citric, mineral and malty.

I was hoping to experience The Funk (sans sherry cask!) and The Fruit in the same Ben Nevis at some point during this series, and here it is in the form of an 18yo refill hoggie. Though more complex when neat, the whisky sharpens and focuses nicely once it's diluted. For those folks wondering if Ben Nevis could be a casual drinker, this whisky answers in the affirmative. Crisp stuff. I like it.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $100
Rating - 88

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ben Nevis 16 year old 1998 Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Ben Nevis + Cadenhead = a reliable next step. I didn't purposely set this series up to have several bourbon casks in a row, so it's just dumb luck that I have a chance to drink a few Ben Nevii that are (theoretically) closer to the spirit. Monday's Blackadder was very good. I'm looking forward to this single bourbon barrel of my favorite Western Highlands single malt.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Authentic Collection
Age: 16 years old (1998 to Nov 2015)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Outturn: 228 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.2%
(from a bottle split)

The nose begins with a good balance of metal, soil, orange peels and peach skins. Then some ocean notes, fresh cilantro, jalapeños and snuffed candle. At first the palate shows minerals, limes, kiwis and pound cake. But then it makes a beeline for rum. Specifically, Foursquare. And I can't get it out of my head. It finishes with Foursquare, limes, grass and black pepper.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Oh my gourd, now there's Foursquare in the nose. Once I can swim through the rum I find baked apples and toffee pudding. The palate is very desserty, with spice cake and raspberry sorbet. It finishes with berries and brown sugar.

Well, shoot. While there is in fact a 1998 Cadenhead Ben Nevis that was finished in rum casks, this is not the one. I've seen the bottle this came from. Anyway, the neat nose delights again, and the neat palate hits all the right spots for the first two sips. The Foursquare switcheroo is a little odd but not a dealbreaker. My bigger issue is that the whisky gets much too liqueur-like once diluted. So keep this whisky neat!

Availability - Probably sold out
Pricing - €90, I think
Rating - 84 (neat only)

Monday, September 14, 2020

Ben Nevis 15 year old 2003 Blackadder Raw Cask, cask 383

After reviewing two young sherry cask-led Ben Nevii, I'm trying out a run of five consecutive bourbon cask BNs, gradually increasing in age, beginning with this 15 year old hoggie from Blackadder. In my previous review of a Raw Cask single malt I said I liked the idea of this range more than the results, but I wouldn't mind a nude Nevis for the sake of this series.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Blackadder
Range: Raw Cask
Age: 15 years (15 December 2003 to January 2019)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask number: 383
Outturn: 279
Alcohol by Volume: 55.5%
(from a bottle split)

Ah, this is the stuff. The surprisingly complex nose holds stones, ocean, soil, apple pie and vanilla fudge, as well as hints of strawberry jam and apricots. But its earthiness reads the loudest. With time it develops a combo of lychee and medicinal notes that somehow work. The palate is earthy, fruity and sweet, with nectarines and honey. There's also an OBE-style metal-meets-dunnage note to keep the sugars in check, but it gradually gives in as the whisky gets very sweet with time. It finishes with honey, lemon juice, salt and a hint of smoke.

DILTUED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Ocean and earth make up most of the nose with hints of anise and cut grass. The neat palate's sweetness has been washed away, leaving behind minerals, very tart limes and old newspapers. It finishes earth and smoky, with a squeeze of lime juice.

This is one of the better Raw Casks I've had the pleasure of trying. It is in fact not too raw. The nose is excellent, mixing a sturdy earthiness with smaller fruit notes. For me, the palate works better when it's diluted, as the sweetness dims and some heavier, old fashioned notes appear. To be totally vague, I must say this one feels the most "Ben Nevis" of the three whiskies so far. And now my hopes have risen for one stellar bourbon cask to appear in this series...

Availability - Sold out or almost so, was sold in Europe and the US
Pricing - probably north of $150, because Blackadder
Rating - 87

Friday, September 11, 2020

Ben Nevis 8 year old 2009 Single Cask Nation, cask 92

Here's an actual eight year old Ben Nevis, as opposed to Wednesday's 8 year old Nevis-loaded blended malt. This single first-fill sherry cask from the fellows at Single Cask Nation weighs in at 64.8%abv. SCN has bottled several 20+ year old Ben Nevises recently, so it seems like a cool idea to broaden their selection with a baby Ben. But still, that ABV.

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 8 years old (Jan 2009 to Jan 2017)
Maturation: first-fill Oloroso sherry butt
Cask #: 92
Outturn: 633 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 64.8%
(from a bottle split)

Indeed it's big, but it's approachable. The nose shows cornbread, caramel and flowers first. Then a whiff of eggs (sulfur) that quickly shifts to gunpowder. Then there's raspberry jam, raspberry fruit leather, burnt prunes and walnuts in butter. The palate's not too hot, but it's a bit tight and almost entirely cask driven. Cocoa and black raisins. Lots of sweetness. Hint of ginger candy. The finish is creamier and nuttier than the palate.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes more expressive: prunes, carob, walnuts, honey, almond butter and something earthy. The sulfur note remains. There's a nice combo of spices and baked pears on the palate, followed by bits of earth, bitterness, pepper and sweet citrus. It finishes very sweetly, with peppercorns and wood spice around the edges.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 2½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The sulfur is almost gone from the nose, but it's all oak at this point. Maybe some almond butter too. The palate begins to blur. Savory and sweet. Pepper and tart limes. The finish matches the palate.

Despite the whisky's age, there's very little distillery character on display because the cask influence is so massive. On a positive note, the nose's sulfur never slips into the palate at any point, so this Ben Nevis will appeal to folks just looking for a feisty sherried thing. Perhaps some additional water experiments may produce better results, say at 57%abv or 43%, but I couldn't find a spot where it topped the Glencoe 8yo. Of course, if you search the internet you'll find my opinion to be in the minority.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $90
Rating - 80

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Glencoe 8 year old Blended Malt

And so......I begin with Glencoe?


  • is produced by Ben Nevis Distillery
  • is sold at the distillery
  • was sold on the distillery's official site
  • now bears the same bottle and label design as Ben Nevis's single malt range
  • was created by the MacDonalds who also founded the distillery

It's Ben Nevis, but not 100% Ben Nevis. Glencoe IS a pure vatted blended malt made up of Ben Nevis and (allegedly) only one other distillery. It's bottled at a burly 58%abv, has loads of sherry cask influence and an actual age statement. And can be found for £40. It's also not swill.

Two years ago, I bought my bottle with the old style label for less than $60 (in total), then opened it for Killing Whisky History, Episode 30, this past March. It's not a casual summer sipper, so the fill level is just below the halfway point as I begin this tasting.

Ownership: Ben Nevis Distillery Ltd.
Brand: MacDonald's Glencoe
Type: Blended (or Vatted) Malt
Distilleries: Ben Nevis plus one other distillery (probably)
Age: 8 years
Maturation: sherry casks and bourbon casks
Alcohol by Volume: 58%
Chillfiltered? Probably not
Color added? No
(from my bottle)

Big raisiny sherry notes lead off the nose with hints of gunpowder and seaweedy peat in the background. It picks up Werther's Originals and grape jam with time. The palate proves more complex than the nose. It starts with raisiny sherry, then adds on tart oranges and lemons, minerals, tart apples and a hint of rosewater. It finishes with dried cranberries, stones, cayenne pepper and tart citrus.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Somehow the nose becomes hotter and tighter, but the sherry element recedes as citrus and apples advance. The pleasant but simple palate holds raisins, peppercorns, mint and honey. It sweetens with time, as does the finish with its honey, oranges and nuts.

Though it's more approachable when diluted, Glencoe shows more depth at full strength. And while it'll never be as pretty as the more familiar, more expensive, sherried cask strength NAS single malts, it has a dirtier edge which makes it more fun for folks with a palate similar to mine. And I think it's safe to attribute the earthy, mineral, peat-ish side to its Ben Nevis content. A good value if you can buy it in Europe.

Availability - Many European whisky specialists
Pricing - £40-£50
Rating - 84

Monday, September 7, 2020

Five weeks, Sixteen Ben Nevises

There comes a time in a whisky blogger's bloggery when the blogger must binge on a favorite distillery's whisky until the very spelling of the distillery's name makes him vomit. I mean, that's the whole point of these public displays. As per Aristotle's thoughts on tragedies we're purging societal poisons via the spectacle.

Right, (95%) guys?

Okay then. Ben Nevis.

Though I execute my tasting sessions with an unhealthy level of mindfulness, the actual write-ups are often quite rushed because this parent's free time is very limited, resulting in missing words, mixed metaphors and daft intros. I intend to treat each post in this Ben Nevis series as a chapter or part of an ongoing exploration, so the introductions may be minimal or will only reference the preceding reviews, culminating in something possibly quackers in the final week as a celebration of my younger daughter's birthday.

This page will be HQ. Below, I will link to each whisky after its review, hopefully in a timely manner, so whatever poor soul who chooses to journey with me can return here for reference purposes.

Here's another fine mess I've gotten me into:

1. Glencoe 8 year old Blended Malt
2. Ben Nevis 8 year old 2009 Single Cask Nation, first fill sherry butt, cask 92
3. Ben Nevis 15 year old 2003 Blackadder Raw Cask, bourbon hogshead, cask 383
4. Ben Nevis 16 year old 1998 Cadenhead Authentic Collection, bourbon barrel
5. Ben Nevis 18 year old 2001 Old Particular for K&L, refill hogshead
6. Ben Nevis 19 year old 1999 Valinch & Mallet, bourbon hogshead, cask 18-1901
7. Ben Nevis 23 year old 1996 Single Cask Nation, 2nd fill bourbon hogshead, cask 1839
8. Ben Nevis 20 year old 1996 Single Cask Nation, refill Oloroso puncheon, cask 2011
9. Ben Nevis 20 year old 1997 Exclusive Malts, refill sherry hogshead, cask 38
10. Ben Nevis 21 year old 1996 Whisky Doris, refill sherry butt, cask 2028
11. Ben Nevis 23 year old 1996 Single Malts of Scotland, sherry butt, cask 1479
12. Ben Nevis 22 year old 1991 Signatory, sherry butt, cask 2382
13. Ben Nevis 23 year old 1991 Signatory, sherry butt, cask 2914
14. Ben Nevis 24 year old 1991 Signatory, sherry butt, cask 3834
15. Ben Nevis 25 year old 1991 Signatory, sherry butt, cask 2915
16. Ben Nevis 26 year old 1991 Signatory, sherry butt, cask 2377

Friday, September 4, 2020

Killing Whisky History, Episode 33: Three decades of J&B Rare, also highballs!

It's time to open up J&B Rare bottles from the Seventies, Eighties and Aughts followed by BONUS highballs, y'alls. The "Rare" is anything but rare, in fact the current version is easy to find but is it worth buying or even consuming neatly, and how does it measure up to earlier versions???

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Sample Sweep: Five dead distilleries


These five samples come from LA Scotch Club events 5-6 years ago. What was I waiting for, you ask? This! This post is what I was waiting for. There's 15-20mL of each which will actually allow me to try them all at the same time. But due to the samples' sizes I'll just be providing grade ranges. The tasting is arranged per the photo, not only in ABV order (sorta) but also per my expectations that I'm trying to repress.

North Port-Brechin 24yo 1981 Gordon & MacPhail, Connoisseurs Choice, 43%abv

I've tried three North Ports before this, didn't hold any of them in high regard. It's good to see LASC was able to get a Connoisseurs Choice bottle above 40%abv.

Nose - Malt, metal, wet dog, Calvados and grapefruit. Then fruity cinnamon and charred chile skins.
Palate - Malty and lemony, reading stronger than its ABV. Fruity tobacco meets dunnage and minerals. Just a hint of OBE quirkiness.
Finish - Cayenne, citrus, soot and minerals.

Commentary: So of course I find a North Port to adore now. I'm not even going to say "Yeah, but 46%abv..." because this is such a great whisky right where it is balance fruit, earth and industry. Damn.

Rating Range: B+/A- (or 88-90, probably)

Lochside 1981-2004 Lombard, Jewels of Scotland 50%abv

I know very little about Lochside, and even less about Lombard. I probably know more about Lombardy. This intro just writes itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, Diving for Pearls's only Lochside:

Nose - A lovely balance here. Lemons, yellow nectarines and lilac blossoms meet dunnage and wet sand.
Palate - LOTS of citrus, followed by honey and hay. Hints of dunnage and burlap.
Finish - Tart citrus, honey and a peppery zing.

Commentary: As soon as I sipped this I realized this was a special taste off, not just for historical purposes, but because there were at least two great whiskies in the bunch. Such a pretty whisky, this one, with just a hint of darkness at its edges.

Rating Range: B+/A- (or 88-90, probably)

pic from whiskyauction

Glenury Royal 23 year old 1966 Cadenhead dumpy bottle, 53.8%abv

I probably should have read my bottle label when setting up the drinking order because this is from A Dumpy. The Cadenhead dumpies. I mean... Now my expectations are high.

Nose - Much heftier than the previous malts. Citrons and limes. And PEACHES. Peaches. peaches. Honey roasted almonds. A few drops of water are added, and out come the old books, toffee and anise.
Palate - Musty fusty dunnage floor meets dusty OBE. But also molasses, lychee, grapefruit and tart berries. Dilution hightens the fruits.
Finish - Tart fruits, herbal bitterness and molasses.

Commentary: Well shit. Expectations met. I've said this before (probably about old Bowmore or something), but had I been of the previous generation, cutting my teeth on the Cadendead dumpies 30 years ago, I probably would have quit scotch by now and entered a monastery.  

Rating Range: A- (or 91-93, probably)

Glenlochy 17 year old 1977 Cadenhead, green glass, 61.8%abv

Enter the Cadenhead Fire Water Era. Some hydration will be necessary. I've had only a few Glenlochies but I think I liked them all. Here are some actual tasting notes:

Nose - Rocks, wool, wet sand. Shredded wheat and a hint of butterscotch. Dilution brings out some fruits (clementines and white nectarines) while dialing up the wool note as well.
Palate - Buttery cornbread, honey, dried grasses, dates and grape jam. Dilution actually narrows the palate, lots of sugar and grain, some wool, a few berries.
Finish - Very sweet. Dates and grapes. Adding water quiets it down, making it grainy and salty.

Commentary: Unlike the dumpy era, the green glass Cadenheads can be problematic with a lot of limp casks and super high ABVs. Some of the bottlings are pretty good, some are not. While I appreciate this Glenlochy's austere notes, I mostly found it hot and bland. Water might have worked on the nose but it hamstrung the flavors. And next to the Glenury Royal, it just seemed worn thin.

Rating Range: B- (or 80-83, probably)

Linlithgow 25 year old 1982 Signatory for LMDW, Wine Treated Butt #2201, 59.2%abv

St. Mags! I'm two for two with Linlithgow / St. Magdalene single malts (including another '82). Though the cask was "wine treated" the whisky has kept a light gold color, so I think this won't tumble down the Murray McDavid path. Here's to closing strong.

Nose - It has a lean side with stones, grasses and oatmeal, but it's also very sugary, candied. Hints of honey and lemon keep it from going too gooey. Dilution add some variety. More malt, more lemons, a hint of beef stock. Though there's still lots of candy shop.
Palate - Sweet citrus, sweet grains, sweet melons. Hints of grass and plastic. It gets more industrial and mineral with dilution. Some tart limes jump in as well.
Finish - Quiet, warm, plastic and honeydew. With dilution it leans towards stones and peppercorns.

Commentary: Honestly, I was not a big fan of this whisky before I added water to it. But even with dilution, the Linlithgow didn't finish well. I wonder if this "wine treated butt" was actually a brief secondary maturation because there's still something raw and grainy running through the whole whisky. I'm being a bit rough on it here, because it's not that bad. But for Linlithgow, Signatory and LMDW this feels like it's falling short.

Rating Range: B- (or 81-84, probably)

That did not unfold as I'd expected, but the positives far outweighed the negatives. The opportunity to try five such whiskies in one sitting is not something I take for granted. The fact I had samples like this just sitting around is a wonderful thing. I'm getting a little sappy here because there's so much misery right now, and this little bit of material pleasure was needed this past weekend. So I encourage everyone to break into his/her/their dusty samples and drink up for the hell of it. Vive les Dumpies!